Before I came to 6sense, my initial experiences with account-based marketing (ABM) weren’t so successful. Back then, we looked at some big accounts, spoke to the reps who owned those accounts, and tried to do research on those we thought we should get into. We knew of relevant customers but not whether they were looking for services. We made intelligent guesses, we tried out ads… but we didn’t have SDRs/BDRs and we didn’t do much outbound. There was no way to scale.
That’s what I thought ABM was at the time. What are your top accounts? Who should we get into? It was too big, too broad, and too based on opinion. I went on to lead field marketing here at 6sense. In that time, we were named a Leader in the Forrester Wave™: ABM Platforms, Q2 2020, and honed our one-of-a-kind ABM capabilities. But as our CMO Latané Conant says, ABM is just good marketing. ABM itself has changed a lot since the term first became popular.
If ABM is just good marketing… What are we really doing?
ABM is becoming an outdated term because it’s not just about marketing activities anymore. Account engagement and customer retention require collaboration across the entire revenue team — sales, marketing, revops, and customer success. One of my biggest responsibilities personally is owning the execution of our go-to-market strategy, which means I work across product and customer marketing to make sure we’re taking the necessary steps to support the business each quarter.
So it makes sense that my team would now shift our focus to the future of marketing: the account-based experience (ABX). If we think of this in football terms, my field marketing team has traditionally been the quarterback in any given game: we manage demand orchestration across teams to engage the entire account — from marketing touchpoints to sales touchpoints to customer success.
Chicken or the egg?
Some say it’s marketing’s job to create demand, and in some ways that’s true. In fact, at 6sense, we don’t have traditional demand generation as a function. For us it’s more about owning the different sections of the buying stage:
There’s a need for specific programs aligned to each section in order to drive the right engagement and boost ROI. Many digital programs are focused on the Create section of the buying stage, where the focus is top-of-funnel education. My ABX team is specifically focused on Capture and Accelerate, where the emphasis is on engaging with our brand — from sales outreach all the way to an opportunity, and then ultimately, to a closed/won opportunity. Finally, Delight/Amplify is about creating and capitalizing on loyalty through positive, scalable, and repeatable customer interactions.
As an Account Engagement Platform, 6sense not only captures the buyer experience at the individual account level, but it also tells us how and when to engage during different stages. We may not have demand generation, but we do have demand orchestration — a role that works across our Digital and ABX teams. We primarily focus on the capture and accelerate sections of the buying stage, meaning we take accounts showing high intent that are also ready to hear from us through the decision and purchase stages of the buying journey all the way to qualified opportunity.
Changes in light of the pandemic
Though virtual events are different from in-person events, the way we approach pre- and post-event campaigns hasn’t changed much since the pandemic. What people miss now is the human connection, which is why many companies have pivoted to virtual field events (e.g., wine tastings) as a way to engage.
What the pandemic has uncovered is just how much of a priority ABX is, and how much field marketers have always done for the prospect and customer experience. Without the flash of big in-person events, internal teams can see the role field marketers play in capturing intent and accelerating the journey to pipeline.
Strategic accounts, not regional ones
Because we’re focused on the account level, we don’t think in terms of sales regions. If we’re running a campaign in a specific industry, we run it across all in-market accounts, regardless of region.
We do think in terms of dynamic territories. Each sales rep has a certain number of top-tier accounts — those that we’ve identified are a technology fit and a good fit for us to sell to. Those strategic accounts make up one-third of their territory. The other two-thirds rotate based on 6sense intent scores (i.e., ideal customer profile (ICP) accounts that are ready to buy. You can learn more about intent data in the video below).
What excites me about the future of ABX
Sales and marketing teams only have so many hours and so much budget to work with. In some ways, industry trade shows can be a bit of a crutch. Every year field marketing teams say We’re going to do less of these. But then the question for so many of them becomes How are we going to get pipeline? The more we’ve explored life without them, the more we’ve found continued success by leaning into our technology and vision.
ABX is a team sport. Our digital marketing and brand leaders bring target accounts from awareness to consideration so my team can jump in to move them from decision to purchase to opportunity. If we tell sales we’re going to run a specific campaign and that they can select targets but that they need to focus on accounts in purchase and decision, we find alignment. It’s a strategy everyone can agree on. By focusing on the experience at the account level, the personalized experiences we create hit home that much more.